Monday, January 18, 2010

CPS Obsessed

Unlike this lady, I'm not really obsessed with CPS in general -- just with what's going in with my children's school, and how the wider CPS policy and culture, and indeed, wider Education news and policy, affect it. So it was with great interest that I read yesterday's Chicago Tribune front-page article on the early success (or not, as it turns out) of the Renaissance 2010 schools.

For those of you who don't know, Renaissance 2010 (and its main funding organization, the Renaissance Schools Fund) came out of the civic committee of the Chicago Commercial Club and Mayor Daley. It is a plan to turn around Chicago's failing educational system by replicating existing successful schools within CPS. Disney II is a modified replication of the Walt Disney Magnet School. Walt Disney Magnet School opened in 1972 (I believe), the first magnet school in the city of Chicago.

Parents of children at CPS (at least all the ones I know and talk to) are already in a tailspin after the Consent Decree was overturned in September and the new magnet/siblings-admission policy. Can any good come out of the Trib's indictment of the Ren10 schools? What do you think of the news?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

These Are Days

Recently, a high school friend wrote that the best songs are the ones that you continue to listen to in the car after arriving at your destination (instead of turning the engine off and getting out immediately when you arrive). I had one of those moments this afternoon on my way to Lowe's to pick up polycrylic gloss and a new toilet. 10,000 Maniacs' These Are Days was playing on XRT; I cranked up the volume, sang at the top of my lungs, and simply, enjoyed it. It was the song that played at my wedding. And it's the song that sums up my life now: content with my children, my husband, my friends, my job, my house, my neighborhood. Things are good for me right now and I don't recognize or verbalize it often enough.

This morning, Grandma and Grandpa Naperville took The Boy to Legoland in honor of his birthday next week.  And I took The Girl and The Tot on an outing to the Shedd Aquarium.  (The Dad slept in and watched football.) I hadn't been to the Aquarium since they updated the Oceanarium, although the kids have been a few times with Natty.

Note to self: do not go to the Shedd during a cold winter weekend. Our visit today was kind of a mixed-bag. I have been very spoiled by years of going to museums on weekdays, so the crowds there really threw me. At 9:45 a.m., I was able to park along Solidarity Drive at a LAZ meter, which broke after I dumped about $4 worth of quarters in it. But even at 9:45 a.m., the line was out-the-door to buy tickets at the accessible-stroller entrance, and we had to wait in line even to get our member wristbands.

We headed pretty much immediately to the Oceanarium to catch the 10:30 Fantasea show. Wow! That is really a show. No cute dolphin tricks to an Enya soundtrack. This show is a production. Imaginary characters, lights, an Oceanarium-wide roller screen - wow! I can't want to see it. They had technical difficulties about 1/3 of the way into the show, so they rolled back to a showcase of the animals talents with the trainers. Afterward, we went down to the new underwater play area, where The Tot happily moved rubber shells from one freezing-cold "tide pool" to another for about 20 minutes.

Although I had brought snacks with us, it was now after 11 a.m. and The Girl was cranky, so I gave it up and got lunch at the new-and-improved Bubblenet food court (smaller food area, larger and airier eating area): kids' mac & cheese plate for The Tot and kids' chicken fingers plate for The Girl, a hummus-and-veggie wrap (and coffee!) for me, and chocolate-milk for both kids. Total with our membership discount: $21.

After lunch, The Tot was not to be deterred: he wanted to see the sharks! So we headed back over to the aquarium to the Underwater Reef, the exhibit that features coral, stingray, and sharks. We spent a good bit of time sitting on the floor in front of the tank glass, watching the fish and again watching the sharks. We also oogled the garden eels for awhile. The Tot was scared of the faux tides in the entrance.

The Girl complained all the way back to the car that she was too hot (earlier, it had been too cold). Our trip back home was just short enough that she didn't fall asleep, but she really needed to do so.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Modern Mediterranean

The Girl started swimming lessons at Independence Park last week. The time -- 6 p.m. -- is rather poor for a group of 3-5-year-olds, but I initially thought it was a parent-and-kid class and it was the only time that I knew could get in the pool with her. As it turns out, it's an unaccompanied-by-parent class. OK by me. The last thing I really want to do in January after a long workday and a long workweek is put on a bathing suit and get in a pool.

But today was lesson #2. So we made a mama-Girl playdate out of it. After her lesson, we headed out in search of food. The original plan was to eat at Target, where we needed to run an errand, but since The Dad took The Girl to McDonald's for lunch, I thought we had eaten enough crap for the day. Instead, I took her to Zebda, a new mostly-carryout deli that has opened not far from our house. 

We've ordered Zebda a few times -- twice for carryout and once, The Dad and I took The Tot there to eat-in. I've tried three different dishes on the menu and they've all been good. I usually find a restaurant, find what I like on the menu, and then order it every time. In the case of Zebda, it's all been so good, I want to keep trying stuff! Tonight, I had the grilled chicken panini ($6) and The Girl had the Gnocchi ($11). Both were fabulous. We also met the chef, Katie Garcia, who happened to be there. While I know there is some advantage to meeting the chef, I could think of nothing great to say except, "I'm glad you opened. And I didn't know you had cookies!" The Girl and I also got some gorgeous cookies to take home -- a round thing soaked in orange blossom scent and decorated with a white fondant flower dipped in pink sparkly sanding sugar, and a coconut petit-four dipped in white icing and decorated with blue dragees. We ate them after our trip to Target, but they'd be perfect with coffee.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Mall

Today, I dragged The Dad to the mall. I do so only once each year or so, but it's still torturous for all involved. He was pretty good this year, despite a tight turnaround for lunch before our noon studio time at Flash! (and the only reason he'll consent to go to the mall at all). I stood in line to order at Corner Bakery (pesto cavatappi split four ways among me and the kids, and a turkey panini for The Dad) while The Dad took The Tot and The Girl to run off some energy in the center treehouse. 

Our photo shoot went really well, with individual shots of The Boy (who photographs really well), The Girl (who usually doesn't), and The Tot (who also photographs well), as well as the three kids together, and some family shots. I hate how I photograph, but the point of this exercise is to capture our family on film. After we were done shooting, we ran some errands around the mall to pass the time: the Hanna store to make a return and visit a friend, the Lego store to exchange The Boy's Y-Wing Starfighter that was missing parts, and Galt Toys in an attempt to appease The Tot, who heard "Northbrook Court" and assumed, "Hobby USA next to Nickel City."

When we got back to Flash! to look over our photos and make our selections, The Tot was very upset that we weren't going for another photo shoot. The photographer (Sam) took a couple off-the-cuff shots of him just to make him happy, which I appreciated. It was past naptime and The Tot was crabby. He, and both of his siblings, fell asleep on the car ride home. 

Organic Mecca

Yesterday, The Girl had a birthday party to attend at Fantasy Kingdom in Lincoln Park. The party was drop-off optional, so I took advantage of The Girl's being completely absorbed in playing with her little friends to head to the not-so-new-anymore Whole Foods in Lincoln Park with Beth and Jenna, whose daughters were also at the party. 

Truthfully, I was more interested in talking to my friends about what's going on in their lives, school news, classroom gossip, and other bits, than I was in gaping at the third largest Whole Foods in the world (Austin and London are #1 and #2, respectively). I was pretty impressed, however, with the electronic shelf price tags, the macaroon bar, and just the sheer amount of organic food. Seriously, I had no clue that there were so many processed "natural" foods. I'd like to take The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot back to the diner for nitrate-free corn-dogs and organic milkshakes.

Sunday, January 03, 2010


Apparently, my memory is really short, because I thought it would be fun to book an overnight at Coco Key over the break. Unfortunately, Coco Key closed on December 28th, and called me on December 23rd to tell me that my booked-in-November reservation was canceled because they closed the hotel. So after some scrambling, I booked a spot at the Mayan Adventures indoor water park at the Holiday Inn in Elmhurst, where we spent New Year's Day.

We had an OK time. The Tot took a long time to warm up to the pools, but eventually discovered that he liked the hot tub and splashing in the sports pools. The Girl loved floating down the lazy river (which was mercifully free of random water sprays). The Boy liked a lot of different things. And The Dad and I both enjoyed going down the tube slide. We ran into one of The Boy's classmates and her family on Friday, which was a nice surprise.